Melanie is co-founder of Northwest Connections and serves as its Executive Director. She is known for her ability to bring diverse people together to accomplish large scale projects. Melanie was the primary catalyst behind the Montana Legacy Project, an effort to permanently protect 310,000 acres of corporate timber land. She helped initiate and manage the Southwestern Crown Collaborative, an effort to put $40 million dollars in job-creating restoration on public lands. She has designed and still currently teaches a number of Northwest Connections field based ecology courses.
Melanie graduated with honors from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in Environmental Science. She attained a Master's of Science degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana in 1997. Melanie is on the steering committee for the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, and serves on the Forest Stewardship Council US Board of Directors.
Melanie was born in Arizona and raised between there and Northern California. She has always been an avid outdoors person. She has two children in whom she works to instill a strong work ethic and a love for land, animals and people.
Conservation Program Coordinator
Adam is Northwest Connections' Conservation Program Coordinator. He is an accomplished naturalist with superb outdoor skills. Adam's primary field work relates to the monitoring of rare carnivores such as lynx, fisher and wolverine. He is also active with grizzly bear monitoring and co-leads Swan Valley Bear Resources, a collaborative group that works to reducing bear-human conflicts.
Adam has an Environmental Studies degree from the University of Montana and has worked on a number of research projects in the region. He is a lead instructor at Northwest Connection, and is known for his excellent ability to connect with a wide diversity of people.
Adam lives in the Swan Valley and can often be found spending his free time tracking animals, exploring new country, or pushing himself to learn more about the natural world.
Education Program Coordinator
Andrea Stephens is Northwest Connections' Education Program Director. She is an instructor for the Wildlife in the West Field Program and the Watershed Dynamics course of the Landscape and Livelihood Field Semester. Andrea also leads Northwest Connections aquatic field work. Currently she serves as co-chair of the Swan Lands Native Fish Committee where she is championing the conservation of west slope cutthroat trout populations.
Andrea earned a Master's degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana and a Bachelor's degree in Natural Science and Geology from the University of Puget Sound. She has worked for Northwest Connections for fifteen years. Andrea is one of those rare instructors who can translate complex scientific concepts to all audiences. She is an expert naturalist and an outstanding teacher.
Andrea and her husband have two daughters. When she is not raising a family or leading Northwest Connections programs, she teaches outdoor skills courses for the Aerie Backcountry Medicine.
Tom Parker is co-founder of Northwest Connections and currently serves as its Conservation Specialist advising field research projects. Tom has been an outfitter and guide based in the Swan Valley and surrounding wilderness areas for over 30 years. His intimate knowledge of the landscape and its ecology of the Crown of the Continent has garnered a wide array of respect from citizens, scientists and activists in the region, the state and the country. Whether he is guiding hunters, teaching students or leading natural history outings, Tom's respect and appreciation for natural systems is apparent and contagious.
Education Program Associate
Rebekah is Northwest Connections' Education Program Associate. She conducts outreach to students and professors from around the country to promote the field study opportunities at Northwest Connections.
Rebekah is currently completing her Master's degree in Social Science, with an emphasis in Environment & Community, from Humboldt State University. Her focus is on wolves and the ability of ranchers to mitigage livestock depredation. Rebekah has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies from the University of California Santa Cruz. She is a primary instructor for Wildlife in the West.
Rebekah likes to write, hike, track critters through the forest, and stay busy learning as much of Montana's natural history as she possibly can.
Conservation Program Associate
Laura Arvidson is Northwest Connections' Conservation Program Associate. Laura manages NwC's Beck Creek Gardens, runs NwC's internship program, is the Risk Management Coordinator, and works as a field technician and an assistant instructor. She is passionate about growing food, natural history, hunting and playing outside. Laura is a 5th generation Montanan, and earned a degree in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana.
Susan Novosel is Northwest Connections' Marketing Coordinator. Susan worked for decades in the fast paced world of advertising back east. Since moving to the Swan Valley over ten years ago she has lent her skills to Northwest Connections managing the website and overseeing all aspects of communications.
Grace Burgess is Northwest Connections' Office Manager. She worked in several capacities with military and government agencies in Virgina before moving to the Swan Valley in 2005. Grace provides financial and clerical support services to all of Northwest Connections programs. Grace and her husband love the outdoors and enjoy exploring Montana by horseback.
Luke was born and raised in the Swan Valley. He received a B.S. in wildlife biology from the University of Montana, and is an alumnus of Winter Field Studies. Luke has worked as a wilderness ranger in the Mission Mountains Wilderness since 2003. He is a Field Technician with NwC and has participated in the grizzly bear DNA project and winter carnivore track surveys. When not working, he can be found hunting, fly-fishing, or exploring wild country.
Mike Stevenson, a native Montanan and long time woodsman of the Swan Valley and Bob Marshall Wilderness, also has a firm grasp of the site specific ecology of several of our threatened and endangered species. Mike works as a master woodworker and building contractor, and contributes to Northwest Connections' monitoring and education programs part time. Mike enjoys journeying across the mountains to the Blackfoot Indian Reservation where both he spends time with family and old friends.
Swan Valley Legacy Trails Project Coordinator
Jessy is Northwest Connection's Swan Valley Legacy Trails Project Coordinator. She will be working over the summer 2014 season on the initial stages of the Swan Valley Legacy Trails Project, which aims to provide a diversity of recreation and education opportunities to community members and visitors of the Swan Valley.
Jessy is currently working on a degree in Resource Conservation, with an emphasis in Community Development and Sustainable Livelihoods, at the University of Montana, and continues to pursue a self-directed education in Sustainable Agriculture and Permaculture through international internships and volunteer work.
Jessy was raised in the Swan Valley's Mission Mountains and loves to explore Montana's wild places through hiking, climbing, biking and illustration. Passion for experiential education and sustainable food systems also inspires her to explore and learn from communities around the world.
Sara Halm - Rare Carnivore Monitoring Field Technician-Winter 2015
Sara recently graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a minor in wildlife biology. She is a 2011 Wildlife in the West alumna.
Louie Shahan – Rare Carnivore Monitoring Field Technician - January Term Intern 2015
Louie will be participating on the Rare Carnivore Project for the month of January, then heading back to Missoula to finish a degree in Resource Conservation and a minor in Ecological Restoration at the University of Montana. He is a 2013 Landscape and Livelihood alumnus.
Nathan Stone- Rare Carnivore Monitoring Field Technician-Winter 2015
Nathan graduated in 2012 with a degree in biology from Whitman College. Nathan was born and raised in the Swan Valley.
A diversity of guest speakers round out the instructional staff for our field programs. Swan Valley community members, local and regional biologists, agency personnel, business owners and environmentalists serve as speakers, hosts and guides. All of our speakers contribute to our field programs through their deep knowledge of the region's ecology, economy and community. See a sampling of some of the speakers students may meet →
IMAGE CREDIT: Top - Steven Gnam